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In search of the Beida dream

APR . 15 2013

Peking University, Apr. 15, 2013: "Beida people should have a 'Beida dream,'" said a top administrator at Peking University (PKU/Beida). "The dream is to build Beida into a world-class university with both Chinese characteristics and Beida features, and a university rooted in the Chinese culture."


"It is a dream that echoes the Chinese dream. It is a dream that is the most significant Beida approach to contributing to the Chinese nation,” PKU Council Chairman Zhu Shanlu interpreted the core value of the “Beida dream” during a recent meeting with Chinese Indonesian entrepreneur Teguh Ganda Wijaya (Huang Zhiyuan) '68.


The concept "Chinese dream" has been much discussed since last November when CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping elaborated on it shortly after taking office. "Realizing the great renewal of the Chinese nation is the Chinese nation's greatest dream in modern history," said Xi.


"As Beida and China have shared weal and woe throughout the past century, the Chinese dream in this new era is the Beida dream," read a Peking University Gazette editorial titled "Chinese dream and Beida dream."


“In order to realize the dream, Beida people have to work hard with great passion, combining the ideal with scientific methods,” Chairman Zhu urged.


To complete the building of a world-class university, the 12th Party Congress at PKU last summer detailed a three-step strategy and the "Beida 2048" perspective plan towards the goal. “First, around Beida's 120th anniversary in 2018, it should be qualified as a world-class university. Then, based on such achievement, it should strive for a higher level of world-class in the next 15 years. Third, upon Beida's 150th anniversary in 2048 (coinciding with the centennial of the PRC in 2049), Beida is to be a leading world-class university.”


The criterion of a "world-class university" is not rigidly defined. “Certainly it cannot be assessed by a simple index or even be described with mots justes,” newly appointed PKU President Wang Enge said in his inaugural speech on March 22.


“When our scholars earn the hearty respect of peers from home and abroad based on their academic achievements; when our graduates, whatever their major, win the trust and recognition based on their capacity and merit, whatever post they are holding wheresoever; when our university has resolved significant problems that our nation urgently face, made continuous innovations for the human civilization, and taken the lead in social development; when our faculty, students, alumni, peers, friends, and people all over the world no matter knowing us well or not, can hold us in high respect as mentioning the word ‘Beida,’ such a Beida will fully deserve to be a world-class university,” Wang pointed out. 


"The aim of edging into the world-class university is a lofty mission, but also a great challenge for us, especially in our country which has a long history but started relatively late in terms of modern science. We should try our best to keep pace with the global standard on one hand, and respect local features on the other," noted the president.


Charles Eliot, Harvard University president with the longest term, once said that “a university, in any worthy sense of the term, must grow from seed. It cannot be transplanted from England or Germany in full leaf and bearing.” Deeply rooted in the Chinese culture, Beida should always carry forward the national spirit and maintain an upright, innovative character no matter how the world changes, said Wang. International perspective and national feelings are equally important when pursuing the Beida dream. “Only by adhering to Chinese characteristics can we build a world-class university that truly belongs to China.”


However, no one today can make progress if isolated from the outer world. Universities are no exception. As the leading academic platform for free exchanges among different cultural backgrounds, universities contribute to the discovery and development of cutting-edge human knowledge, science and technology, added Wang. “Thus, the competition among countries tends to depend more on the contest among top universities each country has.”


"Though world-class universities vary from each other in their individual characters and spirit, what they always have in common are to uphold truth, pursue excellence, and remain academics- and talents-oriented. A distinguished, first-class university should hold grand ambition of reaching for excellence in every major field and staying competitive with the support of talents they have continually trained. That’s what we are striving for," noted Wang.


“We may have our own, diverse dreams here at Beida, a stronghold of the pursuit of freedom of thoughts. But among these dreams, we share a common one - Beida is to have a better future,” said the president. “Now we are striving for it."


Wang concluded: “Beida could carry on its tradition and advantages, stand out among world’s top universities, and make new, greater contributions to the great revival of the Chinese nation, only if we keep upgrading ourselves in a global higher education competition which is increasingly fierce, training first-class talents, and accomplishing tasks with first-class results.”


"Empty talk will but hinder our development; a university can prosper only through solid work," said the president.


“Generations of Chinese people have been in search of the key to national rejuvenation during the past centuries, with both pains from pursuing the dream and eagerness to realize it. Beida people, Beida power, and Beida dedications have been eminent in this process,” the Gazette editorial read.


“Beida plays the leading role in [formulating the guiding] theory when searching for the dream; Beida is the backbone of educational invigoration when pursuing the dream; and Beida and China develop simultaneously when striving to realize the dream.”



Written by: Zhu Wenjia
Edited by: Jacques